Why I blog and the perils of perfection paralysis

I really needed a break. When I first started blogging, I wondered why Stephen Downes took a three week sabbatical. Now, I understand. It is so important to keep it all in perspective.

For me, it is important to understand WHY I blog. I do not blog to be important nor “famous.” For truly, even those in the edublogosphere who count themselves “famous” aren't known to the “outside” world. I mean, come on, get over ourselves, folks. Most people count us as “nuts” or “geeks” or whatever.

We have something to do and it is not about us.

So, then, why do I blog?

No, I'm not some perfectly noble, wise, all knowing being. I'm a human being and goodness knows I have my share of flaws. Many of these reasons have evolved but they are my reasons. We all have reasons.

1) To create an archivable, searchable record for myself

I have journaled since age 8 and have a ton of books. I usually would write 15-30 minutes a day. I literally have 200 pages of poems that I've written since age 8. Ultimately, this is one reason WHY I started blogging.

2) Experience is the greatest teacher

Part of the courses I took at Georgia Tech taught me to recognize trends. We are moving towards a digitized society and although paper in some form will be a part of it, most likely the paper will evolve to be digital itself.

In our society of dwindling resources, it doesn't make sense to keep wasting paper that is just tossed and nonarchivable. There will be a place for tree-produced paper just as there is a place for the stone tablets which were its predecessor. This is the evolution of human communications and those who will back up and take the view from the 10,000 foot level will see that.

There are only two types of people as it relates to change: victims and victors. Those who are supplanted and replaced by change and wring their hands as they bemoan the loss of what they knew… and those who profit and enjoy the wealth creation and opportunity creation that comes from being part of change.

I want my students (and children) to be the winners. I want them to function effectively in a global society. I want to be the visionary that teaches these things that will be part of their lives. If I take the 10 year view, what are the things I can teach them that will be the pivot point of their lives? For this reason, effective blogging, mass collaboration using wikis, and the digital citizenship skills that accompany those things top my list.

So, realizing this after meeting David Warlick in November 2005, I decided to blog. If I was to teach it safely and effectively, I must do it. Period.

My new reasons…

That was why I started blogging and still top my reasoning. Why do I continue?

3) The importance of voice
I believe that it is important for teachers from many walks of life who have the FREEDOM to blog to do so. We are not a homogeneous group of people and have a lot to learn from one another.

As the readership of my own blog has grown, I take blogging very seriously and want to make sure that I am wise and professional about what I post. It is important to do good and serve one's profession well. I believe that teaching is a noble calling.

4) The power of encouragement
I also have a lifelong dream of writing to inspire people to be encouraged. I feel so alone and like an island and there are so many “fussy” people out there who just really are discouraging.

I want to be to you what I need for me: an encourager. Why is it worth it? Why do we keep teaching when we get so much grief and are so worn out at the end of the day? How do we stay excited when we're tired?

That is why I love to post on the blogs of those who are just starting. Someone did it for me…

5) The power of being a part of it
Although lists of “great” bloggers are nice, it is important to remember that every edublogger has a voice. We are part of a network and group of people expressing our opinions and sometimes creating a chorus to promote change. Each person is important.

6) A passion
Teaching and effective use of my technology is my passion… so is writing. Most of us who blog do it to make a difference and because we are truly passionate about what we're doing. I blog because that is who I am now… it is an irreversible part of Vicki Davis and I cannot help it.

I do not blog because I see it as an avenue to “leave the classroom” and become a circuit speaker… I've traveled the country before and am happy with my 2-3 conferences a semester. I have a family to attend to after all. I do blog because I also want to write books and aspire to be a great author who makes a difference in this world and I'll be up front with you about that. Blogging helps me craft and learn what works and what doesn't. I'm gradually becoming a better writer, I think. Still need to work on being more succinct! 😉

Perfection Paralysis
I must admit that I've been suffering from a bit of perfection paralysis in the past week. I see so many things to write and as I've read several books on good technical writing over break, I see so much more that I need to be. I fall so short of things.

But in the blogging world, sometimes a short paragraph gets more readership and means more than a full blown essay. I was so excited about Little Freddie's Two Faced Future… it took 20 hours to write or more… and blam… not even a ripple. Maybe it was too long for a blog… probably so. But I'm still glad I wrote it.

So, I'm going to start blogging again and try to get over the fact that blogging can often be an imperfect thing…. despite the fact that sometimes I am not sure if I'm just writing for myself.. and remember that even if I were writing for myself that I would still do it.

I cannot blog it all… I cannot be a one woman newspaper or magazine nor do I want to be. I can be a drop into a growing pond of communication about what works and what needs to be done in education and as long as I keep that in perspective then I'm fine.

The Challenges of being “out”

The other tough thing is that my life is so busy that I'm never “in the know” on “what is happening” in the blogosphere. I don't have the time to check twitter but probably once a day. I check my reader quickly several times a week and I talk on Wow2, however, as I have spent most of my life “out,” I remain “out.”

I could let this bother me, however, this is my life. I am a testament to the fact that you can blog and still be behind on your RSS, not checking twitter as regularly as you could, and holding down a huge schedule (6 classes), and manage a busy household (3 kids, husband).

You don't have to be perfect or “in the know” to be part of the blogosphere.

You just need to be you, blogging, sharing, reflecting, and communicating.

Best wishes, my friends, for a great 2008. I'm trying to make myself come “back” and get over this perfectionism!!!

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17 thoughts on “Why I blog and the perils of perfection paralysis

  1. Vicki,

    I greatly appreciate your post. I love your term ‘perfection paralysis’.

    I struggle with blogging and highly admire those that do so regularly. I get overwhelmed by the posts in my reader and it seems that by the time I have thought something through clearly enough to be able to write about it the moment has gone.

    I will take your advice and write for me and not struggle or worry about sounding wise.

  2. I’m interested in how new bloggers can get connected in the conversation and collaboration of blogs. Why aren’t more writers contributors to other blogs? I’d love to add more authors to my blog, or to contribute someone else’s blog.

  3. I think you have mentioned a very important point in that blogging is what we want our students to do safely, and so we should do it also if we are going to teach it. I also agree that putting stuff on blogs that we want to keep as a record is important. Thanks to tags/labels we can put different stuff on our blogs, and just search for the label or lesson we want. I wonder, what are some of YOUR best lessons, Vicki? Would you share some of them under some sort of CC licence (let us use some of your ideas, but credit you etc.)? I wonder what would happen if each teacher put on a blog one lesson that they consider one of their best lessons?

  4. Vicki you said “There are only two types of people as it relates to change: victims and victors. Those who are supplanted and replaced by change and wring their hands as they bemoan the loss of what they knew… and those who profit and enjoy the wealth creation and opportunity creation that comes from being part of change.”

    I would like to add a third type – those that believe they are “entitled”, they don’t have to put in the work or effort that others do to be “successful” or as you put it a winner, but believe that they are entitled to same perks and privileges as those who worked for them. These are the students, parents and even heaven forbid “other teachers” that see what others have and whine, complain, scream because you have something good in your life and for some reason they do not.

    It is unfortunate that this attitude of “entitlement”, is sometimes even more prevalent than your winners and losers. It is also very revealing when public policy protects entitlement more than it does your definition of a winner. A somewhat scary and revealing observation of the direction we are heading.

    I love your posts and have been reading them all since November – just after I discovered Web2.0.


  5. Vicki, thanks so much for your words. The “Perfection Paralysis” you describe can keep us from doing so many things we might enjoy. It’s discouraging to work out at the gym if I’m focused on all those perfect bodies. It’s intimidating to take photographs while comparing my shots to those in National Geographic. And it’s paralyzing to write when I’m so uptight about everything coming “just so” the first time. Anne Lamott talks about giving ourselves permission to write a really, really bad first draft – and then hoping we don’t get run over by a car before we have a chance to revise it 🙂 Keep blogging, girl. I’m enjoying what you have to share!

  6. Vicki,

    I blog for all of your reason, but also as a form of personal, creative expression.

    My blog is my work of art. It might not seem so to others, but it is a pearl of great price to me.


  7. Vicki, please know that even though we don’t often respond to your blogs, there are many of us who read your posts regularly and very much appreciate what you have to say and all that you share. Thank you!

  8. Your reasons struck a chord in me – and you know how it feels to be valued and receive comments. I appreciate all you have given to me. I blog to put all that I read into perspective and mull it over.

    And the comments to some other bloggers, so right on.

    I feel very defeated looking at all the blogging going on and not keeping up. Full classes of creating all the content and integration (no one here, even IT is close to doing what I do), family, farm, plus other obligations.

    I am looking for inspiration and collaboration as well as my learning. The bonus is to make me write. I would not do it otherwise.

    Though you blog for you, you are one that delivers.

  9. Vicki, we all think these thoughts and wonder why we blog.I think it is because I have something to say but more importantly it is about sharing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and conversation.

  10. Excellent post as usual, Vicki. I started blogging because I wanted / needed to shout back at the computer monitor, and so many of the sites I wanted to yell at didn’t have comments enabled. 🙂

    I tend to consume more than I post (though you wouldn’t guess that from my Twitter output).

    Most of the time I blog in order to figure out what I think about something or other. (A friend from church is an engineer. He keeps a rubber duck on his monitor. He says, “Sometimes you just have to talk to the duck.”) I’m grateful if anyone finds anything I have to say useful.

  11. You are great! You are awesome! You are worthy of praise for your effort!

    You always encourage me, whenever I read your feeds. You inspire me.

    I liked when you said: “In our society of dwindling resources, it doesn’t make sense to keep wasting paper that is just tossed and nonarchivable. There will be a place for tree-produced paper just as there is a place for the stone tablets which were its predecessor. This is the evolution of human communications and those who will back up and take the view from the 10,000 foot level will see that.”

    The communication tools are changing. Many, who believe in the use of paper, are very reluctant to change or even use the internet.

  12. Those are a terrific set of reasons to blog. I find that my current reasons for blogging are similar to your first few:

    1. Knowledge/idea retention in a format that I can easily search and look at again

    2. Force me to articulate my ideas more carefully to share with an audience (even as sparse as my blog audience maybe).

    Thanks for your thoughts – great things to digest for a beginning blogger like me.

  13. Vicki
    Some useful points – thanks.

    It’s good to see a list of reasons for blogging that doesn’t have “being famous/ getting lots of money” etc., in it.
    Many of the guides that I see about “Better blogging” or whatever, seem to imply that the best measure is number of readers.

    Like you, I started blogging primarily as a way of trying to have things in a findable fashion. Unlike you, I’ve not really enjoyed writing in the past. Blogging has helped me realise that I can write, and, from comments that others leave, that they like reading it!

    I’ve also had a bit of time off from blogging, due to a great Christmas well away from computers. I’m now trying to get back into it, but finding reading others blogs easier to do before I get going!

  14. Hey, Vicki,

    What would I do without my RSS aggregator helping me keep up with folks I admire, like, oh, Vicki Davis. I’m struck by how similar my own motivations are to yours, and how learning how to be a better writer is essential to them. I get such a charge out of sharing something and feeling like I shared just enough and made it clear in the sharing.

    Listening to Paul Simon’s iTunes Originals, to his narrative monologue between songs, I heard him describe how difficult it can be to write a song, but how when it’s finally “finished” the satisfaction is a physical high, similar but better than a drug high, and it’s that rush of completeness (my paraphrase) that one wants to attain again, it feels so very good, so back one goes into the process on a new piece–in his case, a new song. Blogging’s like that for me, though I do still like finishing a new song or poem 😉

    Keep it up, lady. I’m adding a link to this post on my Web 2.0 workshop resources. It’ll be shared by others, elsewhere, as well, I’m sure. Thanks…

  15. Hi Vicki,

    Just to let you know how much I appreciate your posts.

    Regarding ‘perfection paralysis’ this quote from Leonard Cohen came to mind.

    “Ring the bells that still can ring,
    Forget your perfect offering,
    There is a crack in everything;
    That’s how the light gets in.”

    Thanks again Vicki 🙂

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